Study finds rise in medical, prescription spending amid recession

WASHINGTON — Consumers paid more for prescriptions as the country's economy recovered from the recession, according to a new study.

According to the study, conducted by researchers at the Health Care Cost Institute and published in this month's issue of the journal Health Affairs, per-person spending on prescriptions rose by 3.3% between 2007 and 2011. The study was based on analysis of spending by 40 million people for each year studied, using data provided by health insurers Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare.

Overall, spending per person on prescriptions and medical care rose by 4.9%, faster than the economy. The amount that consumers paid out of pocket for prescription drugs and devices remained the same during the study period as insurers covered a larger portion of prescription costs.

"Overall, spending growth may have slowed down after the recession, but consumers, employers and insurers have had different experiences," lead study author and HCCI research director Carolina Herrera said. "After the recession, consumers didn't see their out-of-pocket medical spending groth slow, but medical spending growth for employers and health plans did slow."